When my kids were younger, they loved a day or two when they could stay home sick from school. If they weren’t too sick, a day at home could be fun. It meant blankets on the couch, extra TV time, and yummy chicken soup – who wouldn’t like that?
Now that my kids are older, though, staying home sick from school also means missed assignments, which means having to fit extra “catch-up” work into their already packed schedules, and that isn’t fun at all.
It feels overwhelming to them to be home sick and then return to missed work, tests looming, and math equations that they have no idea how to solve, but I also know that going to school sick, and wearing yourself down, and possibly making others sick isn’t acceptable.
When my kids get sick, I go old-school and make them stay home!
I remind them that their re-entry back to school will not be insurmountable. A few simple steps can take the stress out of sick days and allow my kids to rest and recover – which is the most important thing.
Step 1: Email Teachers
The first thing my child does when they are down for the count is email their teachers and let them know they are sick, and will be out for a few days. Once kids hit 7th grade or so, parents should definitely not be the person emailing our kids’ teachers, but we can help with wording or with finding email addresses.
After the email is sent, we don’t give school another thought – we just focus on resting and getting better.
Step 2: Begin to Do Some Easy Work
After they have some of this get well soup, and are feeling up to it, then they can check online to get an idea of what they have missed so far. They might decide to do some work from the couch. Things like memorization, textbook reading, or copying class notes friends have sent them can be done from the couch. These days of recovery can be very useful for the easier rote stuff, and will help ease the return to school.
BUT. It is still a sick day, and the idea is to get better, not caught up, not yet.
Step 3: Work with Teachers to Make a Plan
When the day arrives that they feel well enough to return to school, they make sure to speak with each teacher either before or after class starts. Since I am a teacher, I know what teachers like to hear in this situation. So, I remind my kids to say something like this:
“Mrs. X, I’ve been out sick since Tuesday with the flu. I have looked at the class page online and I see I missed the test on chapter 7, and notes on Chapter 8. I am still figuring out a plan to get caught up with all my classes, and I am wondering if I could email you tonight with a date for me to makeup the test? Also, I was able to read Chapter 8 and get class notes from a friend, and so I feel good about that.”
Step 4: Remember! Being Sick is the Student’s Burden – Not the Teacher’s Burden
Teachers expect for kids to be out sick, and they know that they will have to make accommodations to help students to get caught up. But, I can promise you that the worst thing any student can say in this situation is this,
“Um, I’ve been sick, and I just want to know if I missed anything?”
Can you imagine how much that question insults teachers? Beyond the insult, it puts the burden of the absence on the wrong person. Capable students take responsibility for their work and are proactive. They do not stand passively hoping their teacher will say “no, you didn’t miss anything.”
Step 5: Formulate a Plan and Email it to Teachers
That first evening after my kids head back to school, I help them plan out when they think they can take any missed tests or quizzes and turn in any missed assignments. Then, I remind them to email the teachers with the proposed plan. A good rule of thumb is that the student should be caught up by the number of days they were absent. So, home sick for three days means you should be caught up on the third day after you return.
Being sick is not fun, but it happens. When we add the extra stress of missing important due dates and class notes, it’s easy to see why some kids would rather go to school feeling sick instead of dealing with catching up.
As parents, we can teach our kids how to manage their sick days. We can keep them home, snuggled up on the coach for a few precious days. We can enjoy every second of it because before we know it, they’ll be away at college – getting sick and managing it all on their own.
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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.